September 9, 2008
WHAT?: How to Throw a Back-to-School Clothes Swap (anytime of year)
INSPIRATION: Swap-o-rama-rama as seen at Austin ’s Maker Faire 2007
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
* A big room; the school gym for example.
* Large tables (we had fourteen 6’x3’ tables)
* 10 or so large pieces of cardboard or heavy cloth approx. 8’ x 10’
* Sewing machines (we had 5 going at all times) and notions
* Selected fabric with fun patterns with (optional)
* Fusing paper appliqué backing such as Wonder Under or Misty Fuse (optional)
* Piles of buttons (optional)
* Fat markers
* Ironing board (optional)
* Plenty of snacks and water
* A microphone and amplifier (optional)
* Silk screening equipment (optional)
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?:
* Silk Screeners
* Swappers (the more the better)
* Align the tables along one well-lit wall. For each sewing station you will need two tables set up in an “L” shape. Upon each table place one sewing machine at opposite corners facing out.
* Set up the ironing board and one table in an “L” shape.
* Lay the cardboard or cloth out on the floor. These will be used for separating the clothes. Mark these by gender, by item and somewhat by size. For example: BOYS PANTS Size 3T-8. GIRLS DRESSES SIZE 3T-8. BABY CLOTHES 2T and under, etc. For our back-to-school swap we also had adult clothes which we simply separated into tops and bottoms both genders mixed together.
* A row of tables upon which to dump and sort out the incoming bags of clothes.
* Have a water station set up for your volunteers especially and snacks too
* The more spacious the set-up, the easier the event will be. Of course the size of the room determines this but with that in mind, find the biggest room you can lay your hands on.
STATION SERVING SUGGESTIONS:
* Tote bag from a t-shirt*
* Silk screening
* Applique station using the fusing fabric*
* Before the event, put a call out to your community in search of seamstresses, silk screeners, and sorters. We are lucky to live in a town where there are many crafters and sewers so we could easily man our stations. Our call for help also brought in seamstresses we had never met before, who had no connection to the school but loved the idea of helping the kids bring their vision to fruition. We sent our announcement out to a few listservs and within days it was circuited throughout the entire city of Austin – via Yahoo groups and email lists. Ah, the beauty of modern day grass roots.
THE DAY OF:
* Once you open the doors, the people will come – so be ready. The more ready you are with your set-up, the more fun you will have and the more fun the attendees will have as well.
* Keep the piles of clothing easily accessible. If one section looks to be getting too big, break it down into smaller sections. For example, our small girls dress and tops pile was ENORMOUS so we broke it down into two separate piles by breaking down the sizes even more than we already had.
* When something really fantastic comes through, like in our case a pair of really cool looking Blue Fluevog shoes, tout it on the microphone. When someone creates some really amazing outfit, like a denim skirt from a pair of jeans complete with appliqués, show it off to demonstrate the possibilities.
* Know that you can do it without all the pomp and circumstance and just hold a regular clothes swap. Fun. But to add the craft stations and silk screening just takes it to a whole different level. To allow people the option to explore totally unique self-expressive fashion is like presenting them with their own beautiful creativity.
We had a lot of stuff left over at the end. Piles of stuff really. We asked everyone who was still in attendance to grab a bag and drop it off at their favorite shelter, thrift store or charity. We were lucky also to have a woman come in at the end who worked with a community of recently arrived refugees. We hauled the rest up there in a truck and were greatly received by this small community who were happy to get so much.
The key is do what you can and make it your own!
We’d love to hear from you if you decide to host a clothes swap in your own community.